'It’s time for learning, not for expressing political views'

Zoe Greszler • Mar 30, 2018 at 4:00 AM

COLLINS — In the wake of a new dawn of political student demonstrations, each district has been forced to decide very quickly how it will handle the peaceful protests taking place around the nation.

The largest of these has been related to recent school shootings after the recent incident that killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. 

Western Reserve High School is no different. The district’s decision: treat it like any other time a student would skip class.

High School Principal Lisa Border said 12 students walked out of class for 17 minutes in memory of the 17 students that were killed in the shootings. Ten of them went to the school’s gym to “sit quietly.”

The other two student protesters walked outside the building to sit on the bench just outside the school. She said teachers followed and watched, making sure the demonstration remained peaceful and to allow the students back inside the school.

While describing the situation to the board of education, board member Kris Green asked if those who participated were granted an excused absence. 

“No, that’s considered skipping class,” she said. “The punishment for that is detention. It was during school hours, when it’s time for learning — not for expressing political views.”

Green said he was “very glad” to hear the students were disciplined because “it wasn’t that way all around the country.”

“They’re here to learn,” he added.

Border said she felt there were some students who she thought were genuinely interested in the movement.

“Half of them seemed to be very, quietly, passionate about their cause and arguably the other half were just there to get out of class,” she said, adding it was “made very clear” to the teachers they were not to participate in any of the activities while they were “on duty.”

“This is a civic lesson,” Border said. “In free democratic society, you have the right to choose and your choices have consequences — and that is the civic lesson.”

“I’m happy that the students want to make a statement,” Green said. “But there’s a time and place and during the educational hours is not the time and place.”

Border agreed and later said the punishment was not for the stand the students took, but the time they chose to take that stand.

“We send any child who skips class to detention. We just went with the student handbook,” she said. “We talked with teachers ahead of time, some ‘what-if’ scenarios. We had some passionate debates. We had some people say, ‘You know, that’s not right. These kids are citizens.’ But ultimately it was during the school day and we have to abide by school rules, so we went with the student handbook.”

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